Oh, Amazon…

Since I just had a new release I’ve been all up in Amazon’s business this week. And figured I’d mention a few things I’d run into while I was there.

First, if you publish in print they’ve added new markets for the Netherlands, Sweden, and Poland. I think the Netherlands one has been there for a bit and was actually announced but the Sweden and Poland were new to me.

I mention this because if you care about pretty-looking prices you’ll probably want to go in and update those prices. If you don’t they default to Amazon’s conversion of your USD price to that currency.

Which, I should note, also occurs with ebook prices where you don’t set the price yourself. Even if it looks pretty when you publish the book, if you want that price to stay fixed, then you need to manually change it so that it is not based on the USD price or it may adjust on you later with no notice.

(I believe. This based on going in a few times and thinking, “where did that price come from” and then realizing that the price was one that was based on my USD price and they must’ve updated their exchange rates.)

This is also a good time to note that the default exchange rate they use for some countries is not a dollar to dollar exchange rate. In India, for example, when they convert your USD price to INR they do it so that it’s much cheaper in INR than a straight conversion rate would give you.

Which, maybe that’s good in that market? Maybe it results in more sales?

For me, I like to keep it close to even across countries. So that someone pays the same here as they would elsewhere and vice versa. Only exception to that is New Zealand where I use the AUD price so price cheaper there.

So today, for example, $4.99 USD is 4.05 GBP which I would list as 3.99 GBP.

Of course, Amazon artificially caps the pricing in Canada and Australia these days if you’re at the upper end of their 70% payout range ($9.99 USD) so at that price point it’s impossible to get them equivalent anyway.

I do what I can and then I remember the serenity prayer and move on.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that I finally saw the Quality Issues Dashboard. I’d heard people mention it, but never seen it before.

This time when I logged into my account there was a little message asking if I wanted to see it. I thought, “Oh no, I have a quality issue” and clicked on the link.

Here’s where it gets absurd.

While I was re-reading the cozies I found a place where I had said “zip code” instead of “area code” and I corrected that mistake when I uploaded my new files.

The quality dashboard showed me that the issue had been resolved.

Never told me it existed in the first place, but told me it was now resolved.

Which means at some point a reader reported that error, Amazon never told me about it, I caught it myself and updated the file, and then Amazon let me see the quality dashboard and the fact that I’d addressed it.

Sigh.

No other quality issues showing. But who knows? Maybe I have to find and correct them and then magically Amazon will reveal to me that they were already reported two years ago? Although it doesn’t actually tell you when the issue was reported, so no way to know how long that was hiding away unbeknownst to me.

Which is why, really, it’s best to shoot an email to the author if you want an error addressed.

Although…Make sure it is an error and not just “I would like you to phrase this my way” which I have heard of authors receiving in the past.

(Also, understand that for trade-published authors it may never get fixed. And for my books published through IngramSpark, unless it’s a life-threatening error of some sort or half the book is missing, those won’t get fixed either.)

This was in fact a legit error that I was happy to correct when I saw it.

I just never knew about it until now. And when I did find it I was like, “Well, no one has pointed it out to me yet, so must not have been that big a deal to anyone.”

Except…They had, I just didn’t know.

Oh well. Better that than the “we will shut down your account if you don’t address this error that’s not an error” message some have received.

The joys.

Should You Update?

This is a question that comes up on a regular basis in writer forums. You published a book four years ago and now you’re looking at it and wondering if you should update it with what you know now.

There are four general categories of updates that I can think of.

Content/Editing

The first is the actual content of the book. The words on the page. This is the one that comes up probably the most.

A lot of times someone’s first book is not their best book, right? Maybe they didn’t have it edited and that really shows. Or maybe they’ve learned more about story structure and they can now see flaws in that book that they didn’t notice when they initially published. And with non-fiction the material can become outdated.

This one is the most complicated to decide on. I rewrote my first novel after I’d written a million words of other material. I’ve also rewritten one of my short story series and I’ve done second editions or new versions of some of my non-fiction. I also had a second in series book where I did a light editing pass to remove filter words like “she heard” that had snuck in there when I could’ve just said, “the shriek of the banshee filled the air.”

(An example. I have never written a story involving a banshee.)

Based on that experience…

If an early title is a standalone title and you think it is just not that good and are embarrassed to have others read it, unpublish it.

If you can do a light edit, like the one I did where I removed filter words as I was reading book two in preparation for writing book three, go for it. That’s probably just the time it takes to read the book and input the edits.

If you have based your entire writing career so far on a book with a lot of issues and there’s a whole series that comes after that, you probably should rewrite it. But. It will probably take just as long to do so as it would to write a brand new novel. And it’s probably not going to sit well with book two. Your best bet may be to unpublish the entire series and just start new with a brand new series, but chances are you won’t be willing to do that.

If the material for non-fiction has become outdated then it’s down to sales. Because it will likely take you just as long to write the updated book as it did to write the original. For my AMS books it actually took almost twice as long to write the revised edition as it took to write the original and it was also about 30% longer.

So for non-fiction I either update (because I don’t want a book out there with bad information and the book sells well enough to justify it) or I unpublish because I know updating that book will take as long as writing a new one on some other topic and I’d rather do that.

Editing an existing title is usually time intensive and often for fiction the flaws that need fixed are not something that can be fixed at the sentence or paragraph level.

If a fiction title sells well, no matter how much you hate it now, don’t touch it. You may well lose the magic that makes it sell because you wrote something in a raw state and now you think you’ve learned the rules and edits may just take what’s special away. Cash your checks, read your fan mail, and never look at that book again.

Blurbs, Ad Copy, and Categories

The second category of updates is your metadata. That’s your book description, your one-liner tagline, your book categories, your subtitle. All of the things that you have to include when you list a book for sale.

These I say change as often as you want. Experiment. Often times authors don’t know what they’ve written. I’ve even seen people mistake fiction for non-fiction. And if you learn that your book is not a book about X non-fiction topic but is instead a novel that involves that topic as a theme, you should definitely update your targeting and descriptions to reflect that.

My YA fantasy I targeted early on as a romantic fantasy. Readers did not agree, and I would’ve been a fool to keep targeting readers who wanted romantic fantasy when what I’d written was an adventure fantasy with romantic elements.

Your blurb, ad copy, and categories should all work together to target the correct group of readers. Which means they all need updated when you decide to change the audience you’re trying to reach.

That leads to the next category of updates.

Covers

I firmly believe in updating your covers. There are absolutely trends in covers and you don’t want to be left behind and look stale with an old cover design. Also, your eye improves over time. You have a better feel for what sells or what doesn’t if you’re watching your competition over the years.

And sometimes a new cover brings in new readers who didn’t really jive with your old cover but do with the new one.

But…I have also wasted money and time on cover updates. And if you’re buying nice covers that can add up.

Here are my two YA fantasy covers for my first in series:

I had the first image, the girl on the horse from 2015 to 2020. And then I had the second image with the moonstone necklace from 2020 to last month.

I do think going with the new cover refreshed the series, but I ended up switching the covers back to the original cover during a promo in March because I thought the first cover better conveyed adventure fantasy with a female protagonist.

The second cover would’ve worked beautifully if I were a known author. And it did sell, but I think people had to search for more information with the second cover. I can tell fantasy from it, but not YA, female protagonist, horse, etc.

Ideally I would’ve actually moved to a third set of covers for this one, but they’re expensive and they eat up all my profits for a while each time I switch them out so I just went back to the originals for the ebook. And these covers are beyond my ability to create myself, even the one on the right that seems simpler but is not.

Titles

That leads us to the last category of changes, which is the title. For fiction, unless the book just has not sold at all, I’d personally leave the title alone. Because you never know when someone will try to talk about your book to a new reader and tell them the title and then they can’t find it so they can’t buy it.

With my YA fantasy series someone published a very popular biker romance book using the exact same title two years or so after I published my book. But it just didn’t make sense at that point to switch things out even though that other author’s title is always the top search result for my title now. Sometimes it is what it is.

For non-fiction I have definitely changed up titles and been pleased to do so. Writing for Beginners and Budgeting for Beginners both started out with much more complicated titles that didn’t connect with readers and sold better after their title change.

Just recently I changed another one. I had a title, Data Principles for Beginners, and it had sold some copies–more than I realized–but not many.

I still believed in the content but I decided that the title didn’t convey what the book covered. So I went for a more wordy and direct title.

It’s too early to see if it will help, but now that book is How to Gather and Use Data for Business Analysis. I also changed the cover. Better, I think, yeah?

The issue with changes to your title is that Amazon now requires that you publish the book as a new title. It used to be that you could change an ebook and not have to republish, but now they want both ebook and print to be republished as new titles.

So you start over when you do that. And risk confusing readers who had bought the prior title and didn’t know there was a title change and buy it again because of the new ASIN/ISBN.

It’s not something I’d recommend for a best-selling series. But for one that never quite caught on, it can make all the difference.


In summary, I think there are times when making any of the above changes can really move the needle. And since often writing the title is the biggest time commitment a simple blurb or cover tweak can be a way to earn a lot more money out of something you already created.

It is never too late to save something that didn’t sell well originally. That’s why advertising can be a boon, too.

Assuming, of course, that the project wasn’t just fatally flawed, which can be the case. Sometimes there is no real audience for something and no amount of changing things up will fix that. Or the audience range is 50-100 people and you’re trying to change things up to get to an audience of 1000 that doesn’t exist.

So you have to weigh changes like this against spending that time on creating something new using everything you’ve learned.

I tend to alternate between creating something new and then stopping and consolidating and making changes to my old material and then creating more new material, but it will really come down to personality what makes the most sense for you.

In general, I’d say make easy fixes and skip the big ones. If it’s six weeks of re-writes? Write something new instead.

Oh, and just because I hadn’t shared them yet, here are the other new covers I did last week. All of the books were already available except for Sell That Book which used to be Achieve Writing Success.

If nothing else I was able to learn some new tricks for image manipulation. It’s all about the incremental improvement.

New Affinity Video Courses

Alright, if I did things right, which, you know can sometimes be up for debate, the video courses that correspond to Affinity Publisher for Ad Creatives, Affinity Publisher for Basic Book Covers, and Affinity Publisher for Non-Fiction are now live on Teachable.

If you had previously signed up for Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts, check your email because you should have received a special discount code. For anyone else interested in the classes, you can use MLH50 to get 50% off of any of the courses.

I will likely be putting these courses up on other stores at some point, too, but no promises as to when. I refuse to put up videos with automated closed captioning because, wow, the things that closed captioning thinks I’m saying….not even close to what I am actually saying. It does no one any good to have the screen saying something about Islamic militants when I was talking about master pages in Affinity.

(Although it really does make me wonder what closed captioning is trained on, the words it seems to default to.)

So anyway. There will be a bit of a delay there but the courses are on Teachable and I think pretty reasonably priced for what you get. Enjoy. (And let me know if you have any issues.)

A Good Twitter Thread

I am that weird person who does not actually have a Twitter account but also reads Twitter daily via a series of bookmarks of people I like to follow on there. And today one of those people who I started following because they’re a nurse but also like to read because they’re a writer, had a good Twitter thread.

I’m going to link to it because it’s one of those emotionally raw threads the author may choose to delete later so I don’t want to create a permanent record of something they may not want to be permanent, but here it is: Cassie Alexander on a new release and writing and life

There are so many good parts to this thread it’s worth reading the whole thing starting around post seven.

I did take a screen cap of this part. (Which if she reaches out and asks me to delete I absolutely will.)


It is hard to be a writer. It takes a relentless sort of optimism to keep going at this thing. Because almost no one makes it right out of the gate. It is decades of effort to get somewhere that’s just the starting line.

And that’s really challenging to talk about. Because you have to be vulnerable and admit to not being as successful as you’d like to be. Or sometimes not being successful at all. And we live in a world that does not reward that vulnerability.

Fake it til you make it. You’re supposed to make things look absolutely effortless and fun and enjoyable as you sail into the sunset. But that’s really not the truth of it.

I enjoy every single day of my life right now. I enjoy the writing and the fiddling with design and the publishing books and even the advertising. But there are days when I have that dark moment of the soul.

Because how can it be that you can make good money just showing up and doing the job as X but you turn around and do something far more challenging that takes real dedication and effort and…don’t make money. Or not near as much money.

And I know that feeling she talks about of hoping but not hoping with that latest release. I mean, I just put out book eight of a cozy mystery series in December. I had to squash every single positive thought I might have about that book. Because it’s book eight.

It’s not going to take off and make my career. It will sell less copies than book seven. Or maybe as many copies. But not more. And being book eight that number of copies is way less than book one sold.

I just had to think of it as another brick in the wall of publication I’m building. It’s slow grinding work to stack that next one on there and not be able to see that everything is (hopefully) working to create something that’s bigger than the sum of its parts.

Part of my issue with the idea of publishing a new fantasy series is that whole, “maybe this will be the one” idea. Because I know it won’t. But I know I need to do it anyway to keep building this writing thing.

It’s hard not to hope and then be disappointed over and over again. But that’s the business.

I tell myself, “You can’t lose until you quit.” And the small wins do keep me going. There’s always some little glimmer of hope. But, man, some days…

Random Comments and Thoughts 20220205

A few random comments/ thoughts.

First, I just did a bit of a reorder on the website. I had maintained separate pages for each major store (Amazon, Apple, Kobo, Nook, Google, etc.) where my books are sold, but that was a bit unwieldy to keep up to date and certain books were starting to get buried.

When you have as many books as I do, trying to figure out what order to present them in is probably the biggest challenge. Especially when most of my books here fall under one category (Microsoft Office) but I do have other titles that people come looking for.

So I got rid of the store-specific pages and you’ll now see at the top of the website links to products on Microsoft Office, Business and Personal Finance, and then Writing and Self-Publishing.

I labeled each one products because there are video courses and templates in addition to the books.

For each title the thumbnail now links to Books2Read and the comments section below includes store-specific links as well as the print ISBNs.

The resources pages I had that linked to other sites or blog posts, etc. are now on the side.

Second, for fellow authors, one of the things I did while I was doing this massive update (it took about a day) was to also add my print links on B2R for at least Amazon and Barnes & Noble since I was already there getting the ebook links. Something to consider doing if you haven’t already.

I’ll have to circle back and do some of the other print stores later and also do audio links but not sure when I’ll get around to it.

One of the trickiest challenges of self-publishing is knowing where to put your time. Last year I added a few new stores and honestly they were not worth doing from what I’ve seen so far. But sometimes they are, right?

Going direct to Kobo was when I finally started getting some traction there because of the promotions tab. And being direct at Nook when I finally was able to access their promo tab really helped the year that happened.

So it’s always worth considering these new things that pop up, but often the best thing to do is just write more.

Third, I read a good book for authors the other day, Romance Your Goals by Zoe York. It is not just for romance authors, by the way. Might be worth checking out. Just ignore the goal profiles section.

(There’s an implied hierarchy and judgement in a few of the profiles that raised my hackles. Could very much be a personal thing. But overall a good book.)

One of the things reading that book prompted me to do was map out the various titles I have under each pen name. (Covered in Chapter 7 of her book.)

And it was clear seeing that map why my non-fiction outperforms my fiction. Because on the non-fiction side I have multiple series that tie into one another or complement one another.

I do have some distinct little buckets–as you can see by my new categories for products at the top of the website–but overall there’s a wide variety of “product” to pull in customers that feeds into the larger pool of books.

Compare that to my YA fantasy that has one trilogy, my cozy mysteries that have one series with a few side short stories, my main romance name which has two related novels and an unrelated novella, and my secondary romance name that has one series of related short stories and then one other short story in the same subgenre.

Basically, it highlighted what many authors know but maybe don’t implement. Which is that you need a big enough catalog or related titles to really gain some traction.

(I sometimes joke that instead of building one home for myself I am concurrently building five of them, which means a bunch of unfinished projects sitting around that will all suddenly hit at once if I keep going that way.)

With enough books, advertising becomes easier. You can have a permafree title or enough series to run rotating discounted promotions. Also, getting books out there consistently keeps existing readers engaged and draws in new ones.

Which is all to say that doing things the way I have on the fiction side is not a winning strategy. Not if you want to make more than a few thousand in profit per year. On the fiction side I need to focus.

But that leads to my fourth thought which is about closing loops.

I am one of those people who holds mental space for the things I haven’t finished yet. It’s why consulting was annoying to me. Because if I had a client who consistently used my services, but didn’t use them full-time I was still holding space for that client on the days or weeks when they had no work for me.

I actually ended my last consulting relationship because a project had ended and I knew that I’d be getting fifteen minutes here, an hour there, requests until something new ramped up.

But I also knew that I’d be giving that client far more mental space than they were paying me for because I’d be checking my emails regularly (I had an internal email account with them) and staying on alert for when they needed me. I preferred to move on and free up that mental space rather than stay on board for a little bit of income here or there.

(Clearly, prioritizing income is not something I do well.)

But I realized thinking through my goals for this year and what I’ve done and have to do that I also hold space for series that are started but not completed. They percolate as an open loop in my head until I finish them.

What will I include? When will it fit into my schedule?

I will mentally write parts of the next book while walking my dog or trying to fall asleep at night. It’s like my to-do list is weighted down with all these things I haven’t yet finished even if they’re not on my schedule to be completed anytime soon.

Which is why I’ve decided my goal for the beginning of this year is to close some of those loops.

I have three series that are one book away from being closed, so even though they’re not what I wanted to focus on right now, writing those three books should theoretically free up a ton of mental space. (I hope.)

(And one will in a sense be that final cap on my old career. Like, here, I gave you everything I know about that. Bye now.)

Good news for my non-fiction readers is that means two more non-fiction titles will be released soon. And probably the remaining Affinity videos by April or so because that, too, is an open loop since I already did one video course for those books.

Of course, if I pull that off it puts me in a dangerous spot mentally.

Because I will have, at least as far as I’m concerned, fulfilled all my writing obligations to everyone. There won’t be any loose ends. (Yes, I have readers on the fiction side who would want more, but I’d have no open series where readers were left hanging. I could walk away without guilt.)

Which means if my best friend from forever ago comes to me in May and says, “Let’s start that packaged food business we joked about” I may well say, “Okay, let’s do it. Sounds fun.”

Because I also realized reading that book that my goals are not writing goals. There’s an exercise in there where you list what you want or don’t want from your writing, and it turns out I don’t want or care about awards, peer acknowledgement, celebrity, bestseller status, or having adoring fans.

I like self-publishing because it gives me complete control of my time and energy. And with the non-fiction at least it feels like I’m doing something meaningful that helps others. It’s also a good challenge where I can be perpetually learning something new.

So, yeah…I don’t actually need to be writing to be happy? Makes that whole five-year-plan thing a bit of a challenge.

Then again, that’s always been the case for me. My life was never certain enough that I thought five-year plans could be met. Of course, ironically, they could’ve if I’d set them.

But, for example, planning on having X person in your life five years from now so that the two of you can do Y is just not something my mind will let me do.

I had a terminally-ill parent who did live until I was eighteen but that was never guaranteed. I always had to have plan A, B, C, D, E…Z. And I never ever let myself put all my hopes on one outcome.

You never know when bad eyesight or someone more attractive or a global plague will make that thing you put all your hopes on impossible. Better to remain flexible.

I think we’ve now wandered into therapy territory, so I’m wrapping this up. Off to add print links for my cozies because they have a large print option on B2R and that’s just too exciting to pass up.

Periodic Reminder re: Advertising

It is not cheating or gaming the system to advertise your books.

There are absolutely people out there who engage in shady practices with respect to advertising (I’m looking at you people who send fake clicks against books that use the keywords you want to use), but the mere act of using, for example, Facebook ads, does not make you some sort of cretin that can’t even be assigned a name because you’re such an insult to real authors whose books fly off the shelves all on their own.

I wouldn’t still be publishing if I hadn’t managed to get some sort of grasp on advertising. Because I wouldn’t have sold anything more than a handful of copies here or there and I would have quickly decided that there were better ways to spend the hours of my day than putting up my books that I’d spent hundreds of hours on and only hearing crickets.

Some people don’t need advertising. They write something that readers are actively looking for and where there isn’t enough competition to drown out their visibility. They started in trade-pub and have a pre-established audience that’s waiting for their next book. They have a lot of well-connected friends who like them enough to get the word out about their books. They hustle in some other way that gets them in front of readers.

But if you don’t fall into one of those categories, it is actually okay to learn AMS or FB ads and use them to promote your books. Do not let other people’s skewed perceptions make you fail.

This post triggered by a comment that may not have even been meant the way I read it, but also by the many, many times I’ve seen a forum discussion where the implication was that “real writers” don’t have to advertise.

Ah, Planning Time

I usually sit down at the beginning of the year and set up some goals for both personal and business so that I have some sort of direction heading into the new year. Because of how the year started, I was a little behind on doing so and only sat down to think about that today.

(Not that I don’t have a running list of possible projects at all times, but this is usually the time of year when I try to at least pick one or two. Especially since some of those projects have been on that list for years now.)

Every year I ask myself, “If you could only write one more book, what would it be?”

Because that’s a good way to choose what to write if you want to accomplish something meaningful, right? Pick the one that matters the most to you.

Except…I never have an answer to that question.

I don’t have that “one” book that I’ve always wanted to write. When left to my own devices I tend to do something like write a book about an obscure software most people won’t use and for a niche audience on top of that. (Hence, Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts.)

Don’t get me wrong. I enjoyed writing that book and I’ve enjoyed writing the other ones like it that I’ve written over the years, but if someone did an exit interview with me at the end of my life, I probably wouldn’t list that book or any of those others as a life accomplishment.

So then I usually turn to the money approach.

What have I written that did well enough that I should write more of it? And that does sometimes work. Some of my more profitable titles have come from that approach.

Although most series have diminishing returns after a certain point unless you’ve really hit on something special. You can keep advertising the series, but people will fall off at certain predictable points in the series so that the number of readers who make it to Book 10 are almost never the same as the number of readers who read Book 1.

And sometimes there’s just no more to say or write about it. The couple got their HEA, the ultimate bad guy is dead, or it stretches believability to think that yet another person could possibly die in that quaint little village of a hundred people and in such a way that the only person who cares about it is the retired school teacher who now runs a knitting club.

That author can certainly write more. And in that genre or adjacent to that genre to try to keep those readers, but the series has seen its end. And not all readers will move to the new series.

Plus, not every author wants to keep writing the same thing, even if it is profitable.

The third option is the “shake it up” approach where you look at everything you’ve already done, decide that more of the same won’t get you where you want to be, and venture off onto a completely new path.

Depending on the path, that can be great. Or not.

I know more than one author who saw exponential improvement by switching genres. I’ve also known many who’ve found that non-fiction in an area of expertise they have has done far better than any of their fiction. But I also know of more than one author who switched tracks and saw even worse sales than before.

A side version of this is the new format/new platform goal. I’ve made goals in the past to list all my books on X site or to put out books in audio or print or large print. Sometimes that’s been a really good use of my time. Other times, not so much.

I was looking at audio sales the other day and I have one series that doubled my money and one that I might as well have never bothered with because it will never earn back its cost. Same with large print. Worked a treat in one genre, but a dud in another.

Bottom line is that sometimes it’s just a crap shoot and you can’t know what the dice are going to give you. Or how the world is going to change underneath you.

Which is why I usually go through this exercise, make goals to publish whatever I was working on in December so I do hit at least one goal for the year, make a few extra goals to have something to aim for for the year, and then completely ignore them but somehow end up hitting about 75% of them while also doing another two or three projects that weren’t even on my radar at the beginning of the year.

Honestly, the goals that work best for me are actually ad spend goals. I determine to spend $X per month on advertising my books which ensures that no matter what I decide to write for the year, I focus on promoting it and/or what I’ve already written and do so consistently month-to-month.

Whether that comes from AMS or a Bookbub feature or FB ads or a free first in series run doesn’t matter. It forces me to keep some sort of momentum. And if I find that no advertising works for anything I have, I can then brainstorm new covers, new titles, new categories, new blurbs, new audiences, etc. until I do get something that works.

Obviously, if you’re new to setting an ad spend goal like that, start small. You should build up to higher ad spends only after you know that what you’re doing will actually generate profitable sales.

So there you have it. My super exact approach to annual planning. One you may not want to actually follow. Haha.

The Grind Stage

A few weeks back (maybe, what is time anymore) I watched a Wharton seminar where they interviewed a couple of very successful entrepreneurs. And one of the comments from that session was that to succeed in business you need a lot of persistence.

I think about that often. (I also think about Seth Godin’s The Dip often.)

Because probably any successful venture has what I’m going to refer to as the grind stage. You’ve started out, you’ve chosen a direction, and now you have to get to the top of the mountain. Which is a bunch of putting one foot in front of the other and moving forward.

I hiked a 14’er once. (That’s a 14,000 foot mountain.) We had to go up 3,000 feet in elevation to get to the top. I was not in good shape. I wasn’t in bad shape, but it was not an easy hike for me. The guys I was hiking with were in good shape. This was not their first. And they eventually left me in the dust.

But I got to the top. By pushing through each and every single step forward. Literally. Sometimes on that hike I would take only three steps before I paused for another breath.

But I got there eventually.

Was it worth it? Yeah, probably. The view at the top was gorgeous. I recovered after a few days. And I can always say I did it. No one can take that from me.

But to get there I had to go through the grind stage.

Publishing I think is like that, too. Or maybe on a broader scale, being a writer is like that.

You have those early bright moments. That first book in your hands. That first person who loves it. That first big promo that gets you that pretty best-seller tag for an hour. That first fan email asking for more.

But then the shine kind of wears off.

Sure, more people love it, but some don’t, right? Or you get another promo and you’re happy to get it, but you know that as high as you’re flying today, you won’t be tomorrow.

Or maybe you get the fan email that says they’re never going to read you again because you took too long to write the next book or you killed their favorite character or you included the wrong kind of character or whatever their personal peccadillo is.

That’s where the rubber meets the road. That’s where you have to show your mettle. When it’s not shiny and fun and new anymore and there’s 2,500 feet of mountain still to go to get to the pretty view.

That’s the moment when you need to put your head down and force yourself to take the next step. That’s the moment that sets apart those who make it to the top from those who don’t.

(Unless, of course, you’re really not on a path to the top of the mountain at all, which, well, yeah, that happens, too. What’s that they say about the journey being worth it? It better be, because you may never get anywhere you were trying to go. Haha. Sigh.)

Anyway. Perseverance. It has to kick in at some point if you want to make it somewhere that’s hard to reach.

(This post brought to you by my first box set promo with Bookbub that’s coming up tomorrow. I actually felt a little shiver of excitement about it today and realized how rare those moments have become now that I’m in the grind stage. The first in series has had a handful of Bookbubs at this point, but this will be the first one for the box set. Fingers crossed it does well even though there’s nowhere for readers to go because I sit around having deep thoughts or taking side paths into mountain meadows instead of writing the next damned book.)

Video Courses and Affinity Templates

Those who’ve been around here a while may remember that at one point I had Excel for Beginners, Intermediate Excel, and the Easy Excel Essentials content (Printing, Formatting, Pivot Tables, Charts, IF Functions, and Conditional Formatting) available as video courses through Udemy.

I pulled those courses when they introduced a nonsensical tax form that I couldn’t fill out. But I still had the videos. And when I went back and looked at them this week, they were actually good.

They use the whole “I will tell you, then I will show you” approach which is not my personal favorite, but it is theoretically the best way to present information for a large audience, so that’s why I did them that way.

Anyway. I have now added those videos to the Teachable store I set up. So if you prefer to learn visually that is now an option. Use code MLH50 on Excel for Beginners or Intermediate Excel to get those half off. The individual Easy Excel Essentials courses are also available for just $15 a pop.

I expect I will add more video courses. I’ve started prep for an Excel formulas and functions course and know I definitely want to do that one to complete that series of videos, but not sure what will come next. So if there’s some topic you’d really like to see covered, now is the time to let me know. No guarantees I’ll cover it, but if it was already on the list it may move higher.

Also, when I put together the Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts content, I decided to put templates that people could download up on Payhip. So if you want an Affinity Publisher file that already has the master pages and text styles created that’s where you can find them. It saves some time, for sure, but you still absolutely need to know the basics of working in Affinity Publisher for a print layout to effectively use them. They’re not for an absolute novice.

Alright then. That’s it. Hope you’re all doing well.

Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts

I mentioned my newest project the other day and it’s now done. Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts is available in ebook, print, AND video.

So what is this book about? Can you guess from the title?

Basically, it walks a new user through how to use Affinity Publisher, one of the Affinity suite of products, to format a fiction title.

I actually started using Affinity Publisher for my non-fiction because I ran into an issue with using Word where the resolution of the images that exported into PDF weren’t what I wanted them to be and the only way to fix it was to use a paid Adobe product.

I’d heard a lot of buzz about Affinity so decided to give it a try and loved it.

They have great instructional videos on their website which is what I used to learn the program, but for me the videos just weren’t in the order I needed them to be. So I was 80% of the way through them before I knew that they covered everything I needed. Also, there are just certain things that are specific to self-publishing (like exporting All Pages not All Spreads) that trip new users up.

So in my latest “I don’t know what to write next” funk, I sat down and started to write up how to use Affinity Publisher for a print layout.

175 pages and 100 screenshots later, I had a book and hadn’t even touched upon how to use it for non-fiction. And then I realized I should probably do videos as well.

Sixty-plus videos later…I now have three video courses listed in addition to the books.

The video courses can all be found on Teachable. And if you use code MLH50 you can get them for 50% off.

Affinity Publisher for Fiction Layouts is the video version of the books. There are about eighteen videos and about 90 minutes of content.

Affinity Publisher Quick Takes is basically a reference library for when you’ve forgotten how to do something and need a quick one-minute refresher. That one currently has fifty videos, but most are a minute or less.

And then there’s a bundle that lets you get them both at once.

I’m new to Teachable so if you see something that looks unfinished, please let me know. There were lots of moving parts on that one.

Anyway, hope this is something someone out there can use. I know I would’ve certainly appreciated having it when I was getting started with Affinity. (Not that I would’ve bought it because I’m that do-it-yourself-as-cheap-as-you-can sort of person, but ya know.)

Knowing me there’ll probably be a non-fiction supplement at some point as well as one for basic cover and ad image design. Hard to believe that there’s still that much content left to cover, but it really is an amazing and versatile program that I’ve found invaluable over the last year.